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Suicide bombers attack government buildings in eastern city of Khost


Latest update : 2009-07-26

Suicide bombers attacked government buildings and other state targets in eastern Afghan city of Khost, killing one civilian. The attacks follow similarly brazen assaults on the eastern city of Gardez on Tuesday.

AFP- Seven suicide bombers tried to storm state targets in an Afghan city on Saturday, killing one civilian and wounding others in the third Taliban commando raid in a week, authorities said.

Part of an increasingly deadly Taliban insurgency, the attacks underscored the vulnerability of the Western-backed government less than four weeks before landmark elections and raised concerns for the security of the polls.

Officials said most of the attackers blew themselves up before reaching their targets in different parts of the eastern city of Khost, close to the border with Pakistan, where Islamist militants have carved out safe havens.

"All of the bombers who had suicide vests on their bodies were identified and fired at by our brave police before they reached their targets," it said.

Three men tried to set off their bombs in front of the town's police headquarters while another was approaching the rear of the facility, it said.

Nearby, one suicide attacker tried to storm a police post, another approached a police rapid reaction unit and a seventh tried to hit a bank in the city centre, the interior ministry said.

It was unclear which attackers were shot dead by security forces and how many actually managed to detonate their explosive vests.

Hamidullah Qalandarzai, Khost provincial governor, said the attackers were dressed as members of an Afghan militia that works with foreign forces.

"The bodies of six suicide bombers have been recovered. There could be more bombers ... One civilian was killed," he told AFP.

Defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said some of the attackers were armed with machine guns and rocket launchers and exchanged fire with security forces before detonating their explosive-laden vests.

"We have three military people wounded and 14 civilians," he said. A doctor at Khost hospital said the wounded included an eight-year-old girl.

At least one of the bombers detonated a car rigged with explosives in front of the police headquarters, but that blast caused no casualties.

Zabihullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, called AFP from an undisclosed location and said the insurgent Islamist group was behind the attacks.

"Thirteen of our suicide bombers attacked government buildings in Khost," Mujahed said. Taliban members are known to exaggerate their claims.

Khost is the third city to be hit by a commando-style Taliban strike in a week, with five people killed Tuesday when eight suicide bombers, some dressed as women and with guns, tried to storm official property in two Afghan cities.

Afghan authorities said later that police arrested seven would-be suicide bombers, who would have inflicted mayhem in further coordinated strikes.

Khost has become one of the most dangerous cities in Afghanistan over the last six months and the scene of repeated deadly attacks.

The eastern province is just across the border from Pakistan's wild Waziristan tribal region, where US and Afghan officials accuse Islamist militants of plotting attacks on troops across the border.

With the Taliban-led insurgency at its deadliest since the US-led invasion of 2001, the United States has ordered an extra 21,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in a bid to stabilise the country ahead of August 20 presidential elections.

The military said Saturday two NATO soldiers and more than a dozen rebels had been killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan.

Western military casualties have hit record levels during the eight-year war with British and US troops conducting a massive offensive against the Taliban in the south, while violence has also spread north and east.

US regional envoy Richard Holbrooke said in Kabul on Saturday holding elections in the middle of a war would be "extraordinarily difficult".

But he said he believed Afghans would go to the polls despite the threat of further Taliban attacks.

"What do you want the Afghan people to do, to abandon the election because of some threats from a small minority of Taliban? Impossible. So we hold the best elections we can under the circumstances," he told reporters.

Date created : 2009-07-25